Raphael was hampered by nearly always having a mockie up his nose and a thumb in his mouth

home life

It's a breezy, blowy, blaring blue day. Three gardens down, there's a frenzy of barking. The children are at school, the cats are piled in a hot fur haze on the top bunk bed and the builders next door are singing along to "Rhinestone Cowboy". I've got a lot of work to do, but I'm trimming my split ends with a pair of nail scissors. After a while, Jonathon comes in with three of Raphael's toy rabbits, chucks them on the dusty cupboard above the boiler. "I'm culling them," he says grimly.

"Not all of them," I plead as Hunky Bunky and Peter and Hunky's Father all fly off into the Bermuda Triangle of fluff and John Lewis carrier bags on top of the cupboard.

"I'm leaving him one," he says, Gradgrind incarnate, "Just one in his bed should be enough."

The rabbit culling has a purpose. At the moment, Jacob sleeps all night with a furry green snake. Chloe sleeps with a Captain Scarlet rucksack and Ken (stark naked except for a desert camouflage helmet borrowed from Action Man). And Raphael sleeps with the ears of about seven furry rabbits stuffed up his nose.

Raphael was less than a day old when he learnt to pull the sleeve of his babygro over his wrist and rub his nose with the terry towelling while the opposite thumb lodged in his mouth. We didn't complain. It meant our third baby was that rare and wonderful thing: a newborn who knew how to sleep by himself.

At 18 months, he graduated to his cot blanket - well, fair enough. But, and here was where the rot set in, it was pulled through the bars of the cot and dragged around the house and rubbed against his nostrils at emotionally challenging times of the day. Six months later, Jonathon wisely chopped the blanket into four squares. Christened "mockies" by Raphael, these were infinitely easier to transport, to suck, to find.

"Obviously, we'll have to wean him off them eventually," we told each other. But we were busy and tired, we'd produced a lot of kids in a short space of time and we were trying to work and play and care for them. Life was easier with a mockie around.

Eventually, Jonathon cut each mockie in half. We now had eight half-sized mockies. They looked very small. "He'll notice," I warned.

"Tough." But Jonathon did look a little panicky.

"What are you going to do?" I asked the Man with the Scissors. "Make them smaller and smaller each time till they disappear altogether?"

"That's my cunning, long-term plan, yes."

I had a quick vision of my distraught baby holding a few fibres of mockie cloth between trembling, sucky fingers. Or, worse, a nerdy, bachelor Raphael aged 421/2, clutching a briefcase and a newspaper and a centimetre square of mockie in his sweaty palm as he commuted to an office somewhere in Grownupsville.

Actually, Raphael didn't mind the smaller mockies at all, but a whole new litter of problems was born. They got lost and reappeared down the sides of sofas, under beds, behind bookcases - and sometimes the organised child preferred to carry two at once, one for now and one for later. Just in case.

"This is ridiculous," we chorused. An otherwise secure, lively child, Raphael was physically hampered by nearly always having a mockie up his nose and a thumb in his mouth.

"Comfort objects are fine," soothed every book, magazine or teacher I consulted. "No need to remove them too early." But the mockies weren't mere comfort objects, they were a career, an art, a total preoccupation, a life's work. Our kid did nothing else.

"I'm going to phase them out," said Jonathon finally.

And, one by one, the mockies mysteriously disappeared from our house till there was just one left drying on the radiator in our bedroom. I snatched it up - pale blue and warm and devastatingly furry - and put it in a little box where I keep all my own licky sucky things: the plastic baby name bracelets worn in the hospital, the locks of pale, silky baby hair, the impossibly small vests, the cheap-but-somehow evocative Mothercare velour rattle.

Jonathon, meanwhile, congratulated himself on the mockie-free zone he'd created. But it was short-lived. Raphael had moved on to rabbits. A crowd of nine or 10 toy rabbits had been assembled on his bed and he wouldn't leave the house without a fake fur rabbit ear stuck up his nose.

Hence the cull.

Later on, the kids and I go round to Emily's to see the squirrel, who's had to have a toe amputated at the vet's but is otherwise fine and getting very tame. "Too tame," Emily frets. "It's awful. I'm sure it needed that toe to balance - I don't know how we're going to rehabilitate it into the wild."

The squirrel's a baby, round and fat and grey with bulging black eyes. It runs around Emily's dining room, not seeming to miss the toe. The children shriek with delight, but it remains unfazed.

That evening, I walk down our street to post a letter and kids on bicycles are shouting, and each house is giving up its private smells - fish, gravy, wisteria, babyfood - and someone's putting out bags of paper for recycling and a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses are ringing door bells.

Upstairs, I check the children. Chloe's got her arms around Ken - tonight he's wearing a doll's nappy and a rucksack. Raphael's sleeping with a tin of Batman Pasta.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    £45 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Glou...

    Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

    £18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

    SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

    £45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain